Libraries Connected, the independent charity representing public libraries, has today responded to discussion of using libraries as warm refuges for those experiencing fuel poverty and renewed its call for additional funding from central government.
Isobel Hunter MBE, chief executive of Libraries Connected, said:
“Public libraries have always offered a warm safe space to those who need it, but the energy crisis means demand is likely to be much higher over the colder months. Our research shows that over 80% of library leaders expect an increase in people using libraries to keep warm this winter. Many are already preparing for this, for example by installing extra desks and comfier chairs.
“As with Covid, public libraries are rising to the challenge and responding to the needs of local communities. As well as a warm space, many of our member services will be offering additional services, such as hot drinks, warm clothes and advice on managing bills, often in partnership with local charities.
“However, this extra support – and councils’ own spiraling energy costs - means library budgets will be even more stretched over the coming months. This money has to be found from somewhere. Across the country libraries are now involved in council-wide discussions on economising and on budget cuts which could mean reducing opening hours. No council wants to reduce library activities when they are so desperately needed.”
Libraries Connected is calling on central government to provide councils with additional funding this winter to meet rising energy costs. This would help ensure libraries stay open as vital warm refuges for their communities. In addition, a relatively small investment across the library network could help boost valuable support programmes such as Holiday Activity and Food programmes, digital assistance and debt advice surgeries.